The Brewers’ loss to the playoff-bound Reds on Sunday ended their season at 77-85, which is certainly a disappointing record and probably about 5 to 10 wins fewer than most people were expecting. While this season was the source of a lot of negativity about this team, there were some positive things that I think we can look back on this offseason.
Check them out after the jump because, yes, I found that much to be happy about this year.
Comebacks of Capuano, Rogers, and Jeffress
This time last year, I don’t think you could find anyone who thought any of these guys would be pitching in Milwaukee to end 2010, let alone all three. Chris Capuano looked like toast when he first came up, but seemingly got stronger as the year went on. He finished the year with 66 innings in the big leagues, and credited with a 3.95 ERA that wound up being very close to his xFIP of 4.08. All of his rate stats — K/9, BB/9, HR/9, GB%, HR/FB, etc. — were right around his career norms. It might be safe to say that Capuano is back, and that’s exciting looking towards next year.
Mark Rogers was finally able to put together a full healthy season, and soared through the Brewers’ minor league system as a result. By the end of the year, he was able to pick up 10 major league innings, making a couple of impressive-yet-short starts. He looked so good that he, too, is a legitimate contender for a rotation spot next year. Like Capuano, he beat the odds coming back from injury. Nobody goes through as many shoulder problems as Rogers has had to deal with and regains their velocity. That just doesn’t happen.
When it comes to Jeremy Jeffress, the damage done to his career was self-inflicted. I was one of the people that gave up on Jeffress — one positive drug test away from a lifetime ban, I didn’t think he’d ever make it to the big leagues before he got popped again. I definitely wasn’t expecting a September call-up. After getting that call-up and actually pitching pretty well, my hope in Jeffress has been restored. I still think he spends most of next season getting stretched back out as a starter, but like the other two guys, his future looks a lot brighter than it did a year ago.
Wolf’s Strong Finish
Remember June, when everyone was so willing to compare the Randy Wolf signing to Jeff Suppan debacle? After that horrible month in which his HR/9 spiked to 2.67, Wolf was able to regain his control, and posted FIPs of 4.48, 4.22, and 3.17 to close the year. The end result is a season stat line that was pretty much what we expected. Odds are that the final year of the Wolf contract could still look bad, but it wasn’t a bad Year One, and Year Two at least looks promising if he can find this control early next season.
McGehee’s 2009 Was No Fluke
If you thought Casey McGehee‘s rookie season was a fluke and he was bound to regress, you wouldn’t have been alone. While his numbers did take a step back with more plate appearances this year, he was far from a bad bat to have in the lineup. His 3.7 WAR ranked fourth on the team, behind Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, and Prince Fielder. I’m still not crazy about his defense at third base, but I’m no longer clamoring for the Brewers to sell high on him. As long as he produces like this and stays cheap (should be at least another year or two), he’ll be a nice piece to have around.
Weeks Was Healthy
Part of what made 2009 so frustrating was the fact that Rickie Weeks had seemingly figured it out, but was only able to play in 37 games due to a wrist injury. This year, we finally got to see what a healthy year of Weeks looks like. A 6.1 WAR and .368 wOBA made him one of the best offensive second basemen in the game this year — that WAR is second only to Robinson Cano, and that wOBA put him behind Cano, Dan Uggla, Kelly Johnson, and Chase Utley. Pretty solid company for a guy some of us were just hoping could be Brandon Phillips, right? Now that Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, and Yovani Gallardo have gotten paid, it’s time to extend Rickie Weeks. If there’s one bit of news I’m hoping for this offseason, it’s that.
Bullpen is Forever Young
When we started 2009, the Brewers’ bullpen featured LaTroy Hawkins (37) and Trevor Hoffman (42) as their 8-9, nail-it-down DUO. It became clear fairly early in the season that this wasn’t going to cut it, and by the end of June, we were seeing regular appearances by Kameron Loe (28), Zach Braddock (22), and John Axford (27). The first tWO guys I mentioned are old and expensive, the last three guys are young and cheap. Hopefully this season is a sign that the Brewers will start to shy away from those aging free agent relievers, which are almost never are a good bet to pan out. They were fine in years past, when the Brewers didn’t really have any Major League-ready arms in the high minors. Now, those arms are in the big leagues, there are a couple more that could end up in the bullpen long term (Rogers and Jeffress), and more arms that are further away. If anything, we can remember this year as the year the Brewers were finally able to figure out they shouldn’t have to waste money on relievers.
We Were Wrong About Corey Hart
We totally didn’t see this coming — you cold say we were wearing sunglasses at night on this one. Remember all those posts from Spring Training, cursing Omar Minaya for giving Jeff Francoeur $5 million and ultimately getting Hart more than we thought he was worth in arbitration? Remember when Doug Melvin didn’t want to make him the starting right fielder? Fun times. Now Hart has a long-term extension, we just saw him hit 30 home runs in a single season, and we’re going to get to see him hit cleanup next year.
Sorry… I wanted to keep this positive, so we’ll end it there. Still this seems like a lot of good to come out of a losing season, doesn’t it? With the division likely wide open again next year, I think there’s room for some optimism in 2011. This is going to sound a lot like the predictions we made before the year started, but I do think the Brewers are one good starter away from possibly making a run in the division.